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Southern Thailand Tour Day 2


After our 65km / 40mi warm up ride the day before, it was time for the main event of the tour.  The Satun International Century Ride 2016.

The organisers served a light breakfast in the Satun City Hall.  So we were on the quiet road from the hotel at just after 6.00am.


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

When we got to the City Hall the doors were already open and participants were digging into you char kway (called pathongko in Thailand) and knocking back warm soya milk.


Photograph courtesy of WeSee Sport

We took a photograph before heading into the hall for a bite and a drink.


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

There were, at most, two hundred riders gathered at the start.  Thailand is in the midst of a year-long period of mourning following King Bhumibol’s passing. As a result very few Thais participated in this event.


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

The extent of the loss felt by all Thais is reflected in the caption on the event jersey.

Serve the King’s Wishes
Create Virtues for Siam


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

We were ushered to the street beside the City Hall to observe 89 seconds of silence.  Then there was a speech or two before before we were sent on our way just before 7.00am.


Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai.

We rode an anti-clockwise loop.


The road conditions over the entire route were uniformly good.  Smooth, unblemished tarmac with a generous shoulder.  Typical of not just the Satun area, but everywhere we cycled during our four days in Thailand.  Their roads are such a pleasure to ride on.


Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

The first water stop was 50km into the ride.  Where friendly volunteers waited with ice cold water and bananas.


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

That water stop was very strategically placed.  The terrain got lumpy as soon as we left that water stop.


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

After a few kilometers of rolling roads we hit a short but very steep climb.  Shades of the Wang Kelian climb from the day before.


Graphic courtesy of veloviewer

This was where the escorts provided by the organisers came in useful for some riders. Marshals on scooters or motorbikes had attached themselves to each of the groups of riders that had formed on the road.  They rode ahead of the group to indicate upcoming turns.  They rode beside the group to keep everyone on the right side of the road.  And they gave flagging riders a helping push when the gradient got too challenging for them.

This was the young man who followed our group for much of the day.


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

This marshal was offering bottles of water to anyone who wanted one.


Photograph courtesy of WeSee Sport

There were also uniformed personnel stationed at every crossroad, T junction and side street.  It was nearly impossible to get lost.

Philip had shot off from the gun.  We didn’t see him again until after we finished.  Leslie wasn’t far behind Philip for the first half of the ride.Lay, Marco and I caught up with Leslie at the second water stop – see photograph with marshal above.

Leslie coasted along with us for a while, took our photograph, and then bolted away again. It was Lay’s first century ride.  Marco and I did not want it to be his last, so we were sure to keep the pace manageable.


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

There were enough lumps and bumps over the second half of the ride to keep us working, but we were careful to stay out of the red.

It was a hot day though.  By noon it felt like 38°C / 100°F.  We were glad to see a 7 Eleven at a PTT petrol station after we had covered 110km / 68mi.  The you char koay and the banana I had eaten that morning had been all burned away.  It was time for a cheese toastie and a large Yakult.

We lounged in the air conditioning of the 7 Eleven for almost thirty minutes.  Completely forgetting that we had a motorcycle escort, who waited patiently outside for us.  Which was embarrassing.  We compounded our embarrassment after we got going again by asking him if there were many riders behind us.  He didn’t speak English, so we tried hand signals.  He interpreted our hands pointing behind us a request to stop riding beside us.  Ooops!!

He then latched on to another couple of riders ahead of us who needed a push to get over a series of rollers.  Fortunately we managed to catch up to him at the last water stop and thank him for looking after us.

We might not have been very convincing, because he didn’t follow us when we left that water stop.  He was replaced by a young couple on a motorbike, who stayed with us for the remaining 16km / 10mi to the finish.

Including waiting patiently while I replaced a flat front inner tube.  Punctured by a staple with just 6km / 4mi to go!


Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Our motorcycle escort stopped traffic at intersections, and with 2km / 1mi to go, told us to sprint into the finish.  We were already doing about 34kph / 21mph.  We weren’t going to go any faster.


Photograph courtesy of WeSee Sport

As I had anticipated, Philip and Leslie were already in the Satun City Hall, eating lunch, when we got there.  I needed a liter of ice water and a few minutes under a fan before I could contemplate eating anything.

I don’t normally eat anything right after a long ride.  But this was Thailand, where the food is always delicious.  Including a shredded and fried fish with curry leaves dish that went very well with white rice or fried noodles.

“Where are the photographs?” you ask.  I do apologise, but none of us took any pictures of the lunch buffet.  I assure you though.  It was very good.

The Satun International Century Ride organisers, i.e. Khun Metharin and her team from WeSee Sport, had already done an outstanding job looking after the riders.  Three meals.  Excellent signage and marshalling along the route.  Plenty of cold water at all four stops.  Ice available at all but the last stop.  (It was such a hot day that all the ice at water stop four had melted by the time we got there).  Motorcycle escorts accompanying participants as they rode.  A jersey and a matching T shirt.

Add to that a lucky draw with attractive prizes.  Leslie won a set of tires, and Lay won a water bottle.

All this for just a RM160 / USD36 registration fee per participant.  Khun Metharin and her Wesee Sport team put many a Malaysian century ride organiser to shame.

We expressed our appreciation and gratitude to Khun Metharin for a thoroughly enjoyable event.  And we will definitely keep an eye out for the next event she organises.  She did drop a hint.  Krabi in March 2017.


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

The main event was well worth the trip.  And we had two more days to look forward to. Well, after a shower and a nap, that is.  And dinner around the corner from the hotel. Which was delicious.


Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Then it was to bed.  We had an early start planned for Day 3.


Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Southern Thailand Tour Day 1


Almost exactly three years ago, I did my first bike ride ride in Thailand.  The excellent Samila Century Ride 2013.  Since then my friends and I have occasionally discussed doing another ride in Thailand.  Nothing came of those chats until the Perlis Bike Ride 2016 was cancelled due to lack of interest.

The Perlis Bike Ride had been scheduled on the same weekend as the Satun International Century Ride Thailand 2016.  I had opted for the Perlis ride as Perlis is the only state in Peninsular Malaysia where I have yet to ride.

With the Perlis ride off the calendar, Leslie suggested that we do the Satun ride instead.  And to make the long drive to Satun even more worthwhile, he suggested we take a few days to ride around in southern Thailand.

That sounded like a good idea to Lay, Marco, Philip and I.  As Leslie had already done a few bike tours around Thailand, he volunteered to map out a route and itinerary for us.

The five of us met at the Sungai Buloh R&R area at 6.00am.  Leslie, Marco and Philip in one vehicle, and Lay and I in another.  We had 490km / 304mi to drive to the border town of Padang Besar.


Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

The only concern we had about the entire trip was where to park our cars in Padang Besar.  Our worries about leaving our vehicles unattended for three nights were put to rest when the sergeant at the Padang Besar Police Station let us park inside the station compound.

With parking sorted out, we get ready to ride.


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

The Padang Besar Police Station was the official start and end point for our four-day tour of southern Thailand.


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

We rode from  Padang Besar to Satun.


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

The most convenient border crossing between the two towns is at Wang Kelian.  The road to Wang Kelian and beyond bisects a ridge of hills between Padang Besar and Satun.


The switchbacks were a significant challenge.


Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong


Graphic courtesy of veloviewer

Like the rest of us, Lay was glad to get to the top after more than 200 meters / 760 feet of climbing over 2.5km / 1.5mi.


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

Just as we were about to negotiate the switchbacks down to Kampung Wang Kelian, the sky suddenly darkened and it started to pour.  It rained so hard that water was streaming down the road.  The risk of skidding was high, even at low speeds.  Keeping my speed low was difficult because my brakes were getting very little grip on my alloy rims.  Philip had so little braking on his carbon rims that he had to walk his bike down the steeper sections.  It was a sketchy descent for all of us.

We waited out the rain in a small sundry shop in Kampung Wang Kelian.


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

The rain was torrential for about fifteen minutes.  Just as suddenly as it had started, the rain stopped.

(I’ll write a review of our waterproof Apidura saddle packs.  Suffice to say here that our belongings stayed bone dry, despite the deluge.)


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

4km / 2.5mi down the road is the Thai-Malaysian border.


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

Immigration formalities didn’t take long.  Then we were back on our bikes for the 14km / 8.5mi ride down through the valley before reversing direction and riding south to Satun.


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

We had to be at the Satun City Hall by 5.30pm.  The program for the Satun International Century Ride included a pre-ride dinner and remembrance ceremony for the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej.  We didn’t want to be late.

The first order of business was to say hello to Khun Metharin.  She had organised the Samila Century Ride in 2013, and together with Wesee Sport, was the organiser for the Satun ride.


Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Also in the photograph are the emcee for the event, and a news cameraman.  The three of them conspired to get me to do a recorded interview about where Team Flipside was from, how we felt about participating in the Satun ride, and to share my thoughts about the passing of Thailand’s revered and beloved king.


Photograph courtesy of WeSee Sport

Then it was dinner time.  The start of four days of good eating in Thailand!

The evening ended with some speeches by officials from Satun Province, followed by 89 seconds of silence and a remembrance ceremony for the late King Bhumibol.


Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

We gathered up our goodie bags, turned on our bike lights, and wove our way through an unexpected night market on our way to the SinKiat Buri Hotel.  Our home for the next two nights.

It had been a very early start to the day.  And there were many kilometers to ride the next day.  Time for me to call it a night.

Samila Century Ride 2013

Samila Century 2013 Graphic

We started talking about this ride in August.  The number of riders in Team KESAS Kruisers fluctuated as Sunday 17th November approached.  Six of us loaded our bikes into Keat’s pickup truck early Friday morning for the 565 km / 350 mi drive to Songkhla.

Samila Century 2013 Truck

Keat, Marco and I rode in the truck, and Marvin, Chris and Mark were in Marvin’s hot hatchback.

Some planning went into fitting six bicycles into the bed of the pickup truck.  Meticulous planning went into deciding where to eat along the way.  Breakfast was at the Sungai Buloh R&R.  I should be embarrassed to admit that this was only 26 km / 16 mi into our journey.  This stop was chosen for convenience over the quality of the food available.

The first “foodie” stop was at the Pun Chun Noodle House in Bidor.  Pun Chun is noted for its duck noodles.

They go through a lot of duck!

Samila Century 2013 Pun Chun Duck

Lunch was at Ong Cheng Huat Seafood in Bagan Lalang.  The restaurant is tucked away in a small village.  Marvin knew how to get there.  The food was outstanding.

The Steamed Red Snapper was particularly good.  This was Keat’s favorite bit of the fish.

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

We got to the Thai border at about 4.30 pm Malaysian time.  Chris, Marco and I watched the world go by while Keat and Marvin sorted out the paperwork required to drive their vehicles into Thailand.

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

We may have planned our food stops well, but we weren’t so clever when it came to picking the time of day to drive from the border post at Sadao to Hat Yai and on to Songkhla.  Thailand is one hour behind Malaysia.  It was about 4 pm Thai time by the time we left Sadao.  Which meant that we drove into the height of the evening rush outside Hat Yai, and then crawled all the way to Songkhla.  The last 95 km / 60 mi of the drive took more than two hours.

So it was nice to be in a hotel in the center of Songkhla, within walking distance of places to eat.  I wouldn’t go so far as to describe the Pavilion Hotel as “elegant” (see the hotel website).  It may well have been elegant in its heyday, but is a bit worse for wear today.  It met our needs well enough though.  And at RM215 / USD68 per person for three nights, including breakfast, we shouldn’t complain.

We wandered into Mr. Steak for dinner.  Ribs, steaks and pasta are not what immediately come to mind when you think of what to eat in Thailand.  Mr. Steak hit the spot though.  This is the team – and a photo bomber!

Photograph courtesy of Christopher Chin

Photograph courtesy of Christopher Chin

We chose our hotel because it was very close to the official hotel and the start and finish for the ride.    The organizers ran into a last-minute snag with that hotel and had to move everything to the Haad Kaew Resort.  Which is about 30 km / 19 mi away via the two parts of the Tinsulanonda Bridge that join the mainland to Ko Yo Island in Songkhla Lake.  Or 10 km / 6 mi away if you take the ferry across the narrow strait that connects the lake to the Gulf of Thailand.

We weren’t able to cancel our reservations at the Pavilion Hotel.  So the plan was to cycle from the hotel to where the ride would start.  Hence the first order of business after breakfast on Saturday was to recce the shorter route to the Haad Kaew Resort.

On the way to the ferry we explored a little.  There is a well-known statue, the Golden Mermaid, on Samila Beach.  This statue, dedicated to knowledge, looked more interesting to Marvin.

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

The scenic route to the ferry runs along the beach.  Marco, Marvin and I, and the others, took turns being photographed with the sea behind us.

Samila Century 2013 Samila Beach

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

We had to do a bit of deciphering of signs along the way, but we found the ferry.

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

The ferry operates from 5am, which meant that we would have no problem getting to the start before 7am.  An added bonus is that the ferry is free for cyclists.

We shared the ferry with a few cars and pickup trucks, and a lot of small motorcycles and scooters.  One family was going to have chicken feet, prawns, and squash for lunch or dinner.

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Once off the ferry we were cycling along the tail end of the ride route, so there were arrows guiding us to the Haad Kaew Resort.  Where we discovered that the Samila Century Ride was the shorter option.  The Songkhla Ipoh Friendship Ride had started the day before.  It is about 360 km / 224 mi from Songkhla to Ipoh in Malaysia.

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Our jerseys and ride numbers were waiting for us when we got there.  We introduced ourselves to the event organizer, Ms. Metharin Pongratchatakaran.

As for our footwear.  We thought it was going to rain and didn’t want to risk getting our cycling shoes wet.

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

The sandals worked out well.

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

We were all a bit peckish by the time we got off the ferry back across the strait.  There are a host of seafood restaurants to choose from on Samila Beach.

It was time for some Thai food.  Food doesn’t come more Thai than tom yam soup.

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

I’m surprised we could ride our bikes the rest of the way back to the hotel after all the seafood we ate for lunch.  I’m not surprised that everyone took a long nap that afternoon.

That evening we wandered through the night market that is just down the road from the hotel.  To be more accurate we wandered through the food section of the night market.  We didn’t bother with the part where you can buy clothes, alarm clocks, toys etc.

The first thing we saw was a pickup truck that had been converted into a Japanese restaurant.  Two cooks were in the kitchen on the roof.  The diners sat at tables on the bed, or at tables that folded out from either side of the truck.  Food came down from the kitchen on a small electrically-operated lift.  All quite ingenious.

Samila Century 2013 Sakura Truck

These sweets are called Look Choop.  They could substitute for energy chews.  They certainly look prettier than your average Clif Shot Blok.  Sweetened mung bean paste is moulded to look like fruits and vegetables.  A candy glaze adds color.

Samila Century 2013 Sweets

I’m not so sure these treats will catch on as a substitute for energy chews though.

Samila Century 2013 Protein Pods (Mark)

Still on the subject of food (no munchies no ride)!  The Pavilion Hotel may no longer be elegant, but they do start serving breakfast at 5am.  So we had no problem fueling up before our 6.15 am departure from the hotel.  We rode out into a drizzle, which eased by the time we reached the ferry.

We got to the start outside the Haad Kaew Resort just as it started drizzling again.  The rain got steadily heavier and heavier.  By the time we were 30 km / 20 mi into the ride it was pouring.  So much for wearing sandals the day before to keep our shoes dry.

We rode in the rain for the first third of the ride, which took us north along the coast before turning inland and then back south.   Highway 408  is excellent for cycling.  The road surface is amazingly smooth.  Not a bump or a pothole to be found.  Despite the heavy rain there was rarely any standing water on that road.

The rural road inland is another story.  There are lots of bumps and potholes.  The rain made riding quite tricky because standing water often hid holes in the road surface.  Keat hit a pothole and has seven stitches in his elbow to show for it.  He won the hard man award for cycling some 90 km / 56 mi with a gashed elbow, a scraped knee and a bruised hip.

Samila Century 2013 Route

Keat’s mishap aside, we were all glad that it rained.  The rain kept us cool.  By the time we made our first stop at the halfway point the rain had ceased however, and the sun was peeking through the clouds.

Mark and Chris are all smiles here.  The heat and the headwind in the final kilometers wiped those smiles off their faces.

Samila Century 2013 Rest Stop

We made a stop at a 7-11 in Khuang Niang.  Keat caught up with us there, which is when we learned of his accident.  Marvin had stopped early on for what we thought was a loose quick release skewer.  He actually had a flat.  It took him a long time in the pouring rain to replace the tube.  We didn’t see him again until the finish.

I bought chocolate milk and chocolate chip cookies.  The others bought food and drink also.  While we were standing outside the 7-11 consuming our purchases a procession came by.  My guess is that it was a wedding procession because of these money trees in their gold pots.

Samila Century 2013 Money Trees

Not long after the stop at Khuang Niang we turned left onto Highway 43.  The road surface improved markedly.  More importantly there was a wide shoulder to ride on so we could stay as far as possible from the speeding cars, lorries and buses.  It helped that the highway was arrow-straight for a good 20 km / 12 mi.

We made a final stop at a petrol station just after the right turn off Highway 43 and onto Lopbun Ramesuan Road.  We needed a rest room.  While we were there we took advantage of a water hose to rinse the sweat off our faces, to soak our hair and jerseys in an effort to cool down, and to wash the sand and mud off our bikes.

The highlight of the ride for Mark and I came a few kilometers after we made the left turn back onto Highway 408.  There was quite a strong headwind as we rode over the first part of the Tinsulanonda Bridge.  We had our heads down, pushing against the wind as we rode past Wat Pranon Laem Pho.  So we didn’t fully appreciate the large reclining Buddha that the temple is famous for.

About halfway across Ko Yo Island something like this rolled past us.

Samila Century 2013 Low Loader

Mark and I had drafted a lorry once before.  What a blast that had been!  This was too good an opportunity to pass up.  Especially given the headwind we were battling.

We swung to the right and accelerated into the still air about 1 meter / 3 feet behind the lorry.  For the next 5.5 km / 3.4 mi we averaged 54 kph / 33.5 mph.  As we came off the second part of the Tinsulanonda Bridge and onto the mainland we were exceeding 64 kph / 40 mph.  What a treat to run out of gears on the high end of the cassette for once.

Sadly this low-loader wasn’t going all the way to the Haad Kaew Resort.  We waved our thanks to the driver as he honked and turned to the right.  Then our normal cycling speeds were resumed for the last 7 km / 4 mi to the finish at the beachside resort.

Samila Century 2013 Haad Kaew

I had expected to wait for the rest of the KESAS Kruisers and then ride back to our hotel.  Instead Mark and I were ushered into an air-conditioned hall for a sit-down lunch.  Thai green curry, stir-fried vegetables, spicy tofu, chicken in soya sauce.  All good, and all much appreciated.

Before long our group was together again.  As we ate we were were entertained by a singer, and a group of Thai traditional dancers.  That was followed by a lucky draw.  We all had our numbers in our hands and hope in our hearts, but none of us left with a prize.

We did have a certificate and a finisher’s medal to show for our efforts.

Samila Century 2013 Certificate and Medal

And memories of a wonderful trip with a first-class group of friends, and a very well-organized ride.  I think we will be back in 2014.

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai